The landing of the Perseverance rover on Mars has already been incredibly exciting, with the recently released photos and audio of the rover giving all of us earthlings an interesting glimpse into what the Red Planet's surface is actually like. However, it seems that the best is yet to come, with the camera drone Ingenuity (more accurately described as a new type of helicopter) due to eventually take flight.
Ingenuity is officially known as an eVTOL (Electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing) aircraft. On the 300 million mile journey from Earth to Mars, Ingenuity was housed on the underbelly of Perseverance.
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As reported by Robb Report, the Ingenuity camera drone is powered by six lithium-ion batteries. Interestingly, these only account for 15% of the drone's total weight and can be recharged from the solar array on top of the airframe. Ingenuity will carry two cameras, one in color with a horizon-facing view and one in black-and-white that will be used for navigation.
Only 19.2 inches tall, Ingenuity has four carbon-fiber blades arranged into two counter-rotating rotors, which spin at roughly 2,400 RPM. Designed to counteract Mars' super-thin atmosphere, this RPM is actually around five times faster than the average helicopter.
While the Ingenuity camera drone will be able to communicate with NASA through the Perseverance rover, Ingenuity's flights won't actually be manually controlled by a human. This is because it takes almost 12 minutes for a signal to go from one planet to the other. Instead, Ingenuity has been preprogrammed with test scripts that will be performed when the camera drone receives activation signals.
NASA is apparently planning to begin flight tests with Ingenuity at some point in April – at which point we might begin to see even more exciting photos of the surface of Mars. In the meantime, we're sure the Perseverance rover has still got some exciting images and footage in store for us.